North Branford Man Sentenced to Prison for Downloading Child Pornography from the Dark Web
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that MICHAEL BAUER, 37, of North Branford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to 35 months of imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release, for downloading child pornography from the dark web.
According to court documents and statements made in court, this matter stems from “Operation Pacifier,” an FBI investigation into Playpen, a global online forum through which registered users advertised, distributed and accessed child pornography. On February 20, 2015, the FBI seized a computer server hosting Playpen from a webhosting facility in North Carolina. Pursuant to a federal court order in the Eastern District of Virginia, the website operated under FBI supervision February 20 to March 4, 2015. During that time, the FBI collected information to identify members of Playpen.
Playpen had more than 150,000 members who created and viewed tens of thousands of postings related to child pornography. Images and videos shared through the site were highly categorized according to victim age and gender, as well as the type of sexual activity. The site also included discussion forums that included tips for grooming victims and avoiding detection.
The FBI determined that a user name connected to an IP address operating at BAUER’s North Branford residence had accessed Playpen for more than 53 hours between September 2014 and March 2015.
On December 10, 2015, the FBI conducted a court-authorized search of BAUER’s North Branford residence and seized approximately 19 electronic devices, including external hard drives. A forensic examination of the seized devices revealed more than 100,000 images and more than 1,300 videos of child pornography, including images and videos depicting children younger than 12 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Some of the images and videos depict sadistic and masochistic conduct.
On May 7, 2018, Bauer pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.
BAUER, who is released on a $100,000 bond, was ordered to report to prison on January 11, 2019.
This prosecution is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative, which is aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
To report cases of child exploitation, please visit www.cybertipline.com.